Super Kings take on Daredevils for a berth in the final
The stroke had reflexes, power, intensity and daring. Mahendra Singh Dhoni whipped a pacey, swinging yorker from Lasith Malinga from his off-stump and propelled the sphere over mid-wicket for the maximum.
The Chennai Super Kings captain's ‘helicopter shot' — achieved with strong wrists and tremendous ‘blade' speed — was high on skill and elevation as the ball kept gaining height. This was Power Play by Dhoni.
CSK has a different look to it when Dhoni launches into the bowling. Indeed, the Mumbai Indians attack wilted when Dhoni's flashing ‘blade' dismissed the ball to distant corners of the ground.
The host will look at its skipper for inspiration when it takes on Delhi Daredevils in Qualifier-2 at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday. Will Dhoni innovate and create again?
Momentum with CSK
Super Kings has momentum in its favour. Yet, Daredevils too has match-winners in a knock-out situation.
CSK, finally, got the pacing of its innings right in the ‘eliminator' against Mumbai Indians on Wednesday. The side lost two quick wickets but then the solid Michael Hussey and the never-say-die S. Badrinath not just prevented further inroads early on but gradually upped the scoring tempo.
Then, Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo cut loose as the last five overs yielded an astonishing 73 runs. No other side in the competition has as much firepower down the order.
Strategically, Daredevils might have a problem against CSK. The side does not possess a specialist off-spinner who could become a factor against the southpaws — Hussey, Suresh Raina and Albie Morkel — in the host line-up. Will skipper Sehwag send down his occasional off-spinners in this key duel?
The ball could grip and turn on the surface at Chepauk and Daredevils' pace-oriented attack might be one-dimensional if the side does not field second specialist spinner.
The chances are that left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem could replace either Umesh Yadav or Varun Aaron in the XI. Nadeem and Pawan Negi, another left-arm spinner, might add some weight if not variety to the spin department.
The Delhi side also has the option of fielding van der Merwe, yet another left-arm spinner, but might shy away from the move since it would then lose an overseas batsman in Ross Taylor.
This said, Taylor has largely been a heave-on-the-leg-side batsman in this competition and his limitations on the off-side have seen him floundering against a paceman who takes the ball away or a left-arm spinner.
Daredevils not only have to send Taylor at No. 5 but needs to tell this Kiwi to open up his game on both sides of the wicket which would prevent the opposition from having a set game-plan against him — presently the captains have been blocking the on-side and getting the ball to move or turn away from Taylor.
The Delhi side has a dangerous opening combination — Sehwag and Warner can turn games in a couple of overs — but the batting is top heavy. The Daredevils think-tank has attempted to bolster the middle-order by having Naman Ojha at No. 3 and getting Mahela Jayawardene to walk in at No. 4.
Jayawardene, light on his feet, can be a game-changing batsman in these conditions but Delhi's middle-order has largely disappointed. The left-handed Pathan's batting ability could have also been better utilised — he is such a clean striker of the ball.
Daredevils were ripped open by Ben Hilfenhaus' swing bowling in the league game here and the Aussie paceman's duel against Sehwag and Warner could be tactically stimulating.
Off-spinner R. Ashwin might be employed at the start to counter the left-handed Warner. And the lanky Morne Morkel's bounce and seam movement could dent the CSK line-up.
The face-off — a test of nerve — has immense possibilities.